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That Night

Rajesh , 2788

It was the first shower of the monsoon. I had forced Shazia to come with me for a movie that evening. I promised that we would be free by 7:30 p.m. and that I would drop her back at her place. We went out in the afternoon, watched an Aamir Khan starrer and then ate dinner at a restaurant. We chatted all evening. We had met after 6 long months because Shazia was busy with her UPSC coaching and I never felt like disturbing her. She has always been the hard-working, brilliant and ‘make-her-parents-proud’ kind of person and I did not want to stand in her way.

It was 7:00 p.m. and Shazia, as usual had started her repetitive insistence to go home. I agreed to leave and she asked me to take a shortcut. We were 10 minutes away from her house when we got stuck in traffic. Scared of her strict joint family, she decided to walk through street to reach on time. We bid goodbye and parted ways.

Sitting in the car, I noticed that she had left her cellphone on the seat. And I did not have any other number to contact her. Thinking that she would be worried all night, I parked my car on the roadside and hurried along the same street to catch her. I was walking when I heard a scream from somewhere close by. A chill ran down my spine but I never thought of moving away. I tried to follow the sound and found a bamboo stick on the way.

A few seconds later, I saw the headlights of a car parked in the back of a small playground. I squinted to see what was happening inside the car. To my shock, I saw two men forcing themselves upon a helpless girl. I had no help, but I could not just let this happen and do nothing about it. I immediately called 100 and reported the scene. Gathering my courage, I shouted and ran towards the car, banging the stick on the windshield with all the strength I had. The men inside were furious and came out of the car to stop me. I hit the first one in the crotch as hard as I could. The second one came out and took a hold of my stick. While he was trying to push me inside the car, the girl picked up a brick from the playground and struck him on the head.

That was the moment when I realized that the girl was Shazia; terrified, petrified to her core. She was shaking with fear. I hugged her and called her parents. The police arrived and both the men were arrested. Shazia’s parents took her home without saying a word.

I tried to contact Shazia in the next few days but she didn’t pick up. I left a thousand messages but she never responded. A week later, I waited outside her coaching classes, hoping to run into her. I waited till her brother dropped her off and left. I asked her about how she was and she said, “My parents don’t want me to be friends with you anymore. They blame you for everything that happened that night. They believe that had you been more responsible, none of that would have happened. I am not allowed to go out now, at least not on my own. They don’t want me to have any relations with girls like you. My brother drops me and picks me up. It is better that we part ways.”

Shocked, furious and depressed, I left. Shazia was one of my best friends and I could not imagine losing her. I felt disgusted. I pitied the society which held girls responsible for incidents like this. I pitied the parents who couldn’t see the strength of their daughter. I pitied Shazia for being a part of the world where women can never ever be independent.

That night, I not only lost a friend but a lot of my faith in humanity. I had given all that I had to save Shazia that night and my reward was the disrespect of her parents and the tag of ‘Girls Like Me’. I can’t do anything about it, but I hope that some day Shazia will have the courage to fight for herself and her dreams. I hope that some day every girl will have the strength to see herself as an independent being, free to live life on her own terms.

That’s Just Us

Rajesh , 2788